Samuel Woods Bryant, born in Washington, Pa., on 24 May 1877, attended Bryant School and Pittsburgh Academy before receiving an appointment to the Naval Academy in May 1893. Though he resigned the appointment soon thereafter, Bryant secured another in 1896 and returned to the Naval Academy to complete the course. In June of 1898, while still a naval cadet, he was assigned to the battleship Massachusetts of Admiral Sampson’s squadron in which he took part in the bombardments of Santiago on 31 May and 6 June and in other engagements in the West Indies during the Spanish-American War. He also served in the gunboat Leyden before returning to the Naval Academy.
Graduating in June 1900, he then served the two years at sea then required by law before being commissioned as an ensign. During that interval, he served briefly in the armored cruiser New York (Armored Cruiser No. 2) before reporting on board the converted yacht Yankton on 1 September. About a year later, he left the converted yacht for duty in the battleship Illinois (Battleship No. 7). It was late in this assignment, on 7 August 1902, that Bryant received his commission as an ensign. On 19 September 1902, he was detached from Illinois for a short tour of duty as a watch and division on board Nashville (Gunboat No. 7). That assignment concluded with the year and Ens. Bryant transferred to Machias (Gunboat No. 5) on 30 December 1902 and remained in her until April 1904. Thereafter, until October 1907, he did successive duty on board Marblehead (Cruiser No. 11) and Preble (Torpedo-boat Destroyer No. 12) and finally as navigator of Lawton and Buffalo. While serving in Preble, he was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 21 August 1905 and to full lieutenant on 11 September 1905.
In the fall of 1907, Lt. Bryant returned to the Naval Academy as a navigation instructor and remained there almost three years. After being detached in June 1910, he joined Nebraska (Battleship No. 14). On 28 October 1912, in the rank of lieutenant commander, he assumed command of Yankton which duty he carried out until 31 May 1913. Ordered to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., he pursued the short course until 4 October when he transferred to the Naval Radio Station, Norfolk, Va. There, he took up duty as assistant to the superintendent on 10 November. He next fitted out and assumed command of Allen (Torpedo-boat Destroyer No. 66) at her commissioning on 24 January 1917.
Continuing in command of Allen after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Bryant was promoted to commander on 22 June 1917. In December 1917, however, he was appointed an aide on the staff of the Commander, U. S. Destroyer Flotillas Operating in European Waters. He served in that capacity until late in August 1918, being promoted to captain on 15 August. Capt. Bryant returned to the United States to fit out Gamble (Destroyer No. 123). On 4 November 1918, he was appointed to command the destroyers based at Norfolk, Va., which he did until 7 February 1919 when he was transferred to command of Flotilla B and Destroyers based at Charleston, S.C.
In June of that year Capt. Bryant received orders to Washington, D.C. for duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations with the Director of Naval Communications. He left that office at the beginning of June 1922 to take command of Division 39, Destroyer Squadrons, Atlantic Fleet, with additional duty as the commanding officer of McCormick (DD-223), positions which he held for 17 months. In addition, he left these assignments temporarily in December 1922 to serve as an assistant to the naval advisor to the American delegate to the International Commission on the Rules of Warfare at the Hague in the Netherlands.
Returning to Division 39 and McCormick early in 1923, he resumed those commands until the following fall. Detached from Division 39 on 17 November, Capt. Bryant went back to the Office of Naval Communications, where he served as assistant director from 11 December 1923 to 31 May 1924. He then returned to the Naval War College, and, after completing the course in May 1925, served on the staff there until July 1926. After that, he went to sea again, commanding Detroit (CL-8) for two years, before starting another tour of duty on the Naval War College staff in July 1928.
In June of 1930, he became chief of staff to the Commander, Scouting Fleet. During the 24 months in which he served in that position, Scouting Fleet was redesignated Scouting Force. Detached early in the summer of 1932, he reported for duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations on 7 July 1932 as officer-in-charge of the War Plans Division. Near the end of that assignment, on 18 February 1934, he was promoted to rear admiral. In July 1934, Rear Admiral Bryant received orders to break his flag afloat as the Commander, Battleship Division 2, Battle Force, and did so on 4 September 1934. He remained so employed until 30 March 1935 when he became chief of staff to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, in which capacity he served until 29 August 1935.
Hospitalized for more than a year, he was discharged from the Naval Hospital, San Diego, on 15 December 1936 and, on 1 March 1937, was transferred to the retired list by reason of physical disability. Rear Admiral Bryant died at Asheville, N.C., on 4 November 1938, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on 7 November 1938.
Bryant (DD-665) was laid down on 30 December 1942 at the Charleston (S.C.) Navy Yard; launched on 29 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Samuel W. Bryant, the widow of Rear Admiral Bryant; and commissioned on 4 December 1943, Comdr. Paul L. High in command.
After fitting out at the Charleston Navy Yard, Bryant conducted a month-long shakedown cruise near Bermuda before returning to Charleston on 28 February for a 10-day, post-shakedown availability. The destroyer then set sail for the Boston Navy Yard and arrived there on the 13th. Two days later, she and McNair (DD-679) got underway for the Pacific as escorts for Wasp (CV-18). The trio transited the Panama Canal on the 20th and then steamed north for a one-day replenishment stop at San Diego before heading on toward Hawaii. On 3 April, Bryant entered Pearl Harbor and, following three days of exercises there, devoted the remainder of April and the beginning of May to a yard availability to repair leaks in her reduction gear and fireroom hull.
Her repairs completed, the warship conducted antisubmarine warfare patrols and participated in landing and bombardment exercises near Pearl Harbor during the latter half of May. She got underway on 29 May for Eniwetok, the staging area for the invasion of the Marianas. On 11 June, she set out for Saipan in the Northern Attack Force and spent D-day, the 15th, in the transport screen. For the next month and a half, the destroyer patrolled the waters surrounding Saipan and Tinian on radar picket station, occasionally providing fire support and illuminating fire to help troops fighting ashore.
Bryant returned to Eniwetok Atoll on 5 August and settled in alongside Piedmont (AD-17) for 10 days of engineering repairs. Following a six-day tender availability at Purvis Bay, she stood out to sea on 6 September for the Palaus. During the morning watch of the 12th, Bryant approached Peleliu in the destroyer screen of Task Group (TG) 32.5, which consisted of the flagship Louisville (CA-28), Idaho (BB-42), Mississippi (BB-41), and Portland (CA-33). When firing positions had been achieved, the roar of the battlewagons’ 14-inch guns heralded the opening of a three-day long, meticulous pattern of rotating bombardment by air and sea. Daily, Bryant took leave of her screening duties with the capital ships to close the beach and dump 40-millimeter rounds on enemy positions which threatened the operations of the underwater demolition teams (UDT). On 16 September, the day after the initial landings on Peleliu, Vice Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson received Admiral William F. Halsey’s order to “seize Ulithi as early as practicable…with resources at hand.” Bryant served as part of the screen for the regiment tasked with occupying the atoll, needed as an advance base for operations to liberate the Philippines. The landings, which took place on 23 September, encountered no opposition because the Japanese garrison had already abandoned the islets and moved to Yap.
A decision by the American high command to cancel the landings at Yap and Mindanao in favor of accelerating the timetable for operations against Leyte and Luzon afforded Bryant little time to replenish her depleted supply of fuel and ammunition. On 24 September, she departed Ulithi, made a brief stop at Kossol Roads, and reached Seeadler Harbor on the 28th for two weeks of voyage repairs, drills, and recreation. On 11 October, she “topped off” her fuel and commenced a week-long passage to Leyte Gulf. During the early morning hours of 20 October, Bryant stood off Leyte approximately 12,000 yards from Catmon Hill conducting indirect fire in support of the troops landing with the Southern Attack Force near Dulag. Later in the day, she helped to silence a mortar position which had earlier damaged Bennion with a near miss.
On the 21st, she joined TG 77.2 and readied herself to meet a Japanese attempt to force through Surigao Strait and destroy the American transports in Leyte Gulf. Surigao Straita waterway bracketed by Leyte and Panaon Islands to the north and west and by Mindanao and Dinagat Islands to the south and eastconstitutes the southern approach to the gulf. Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf deployed his battleships and cruisers across the northern mouth of the strait and arrayed his destroyers on either flank. The Japanese strike force under Vice Admiral Nishimura composed of the battleships Yamashiro and Fuso, the heavy cruiser Mogami, and four destroyers steamed into the strait from the south during mid-watch on the 25th. Deployed to the east side of the strait, Bryant, Halford (DD-480), and Robinson (DD-562) comprised one of the three destroyer sections assigned to screen Rear Admiral Oldendorf’s left flank cruisers. By the time Bryant closed within range of the enemy column, many of his ships had been sunk or were burning as a consequence of the right flank destroyers’ torpedo attack and the gunfire of the battleships and cruisers in the battle line. At 0339, under the cover of salvos from the battleships and cruisers, the trio commenced their attack to the starboard side of the enemy battle line as it pressed northward. Bryant closed to 8,800 yards and loosed a spread of five torpedoes, none of which found their target, and then retired unscathed to a position near Hibuson Island.
After receiving word that American escort carriers had come under fire in the Battle off Samar, TG 77.2 discontinued pursuit of Nishimura’s force and steamed to aid the baby flattops. When the task group arrived too late to influence events near Samar, it dispatched Bryant to a radar picket station between Suluan and Dinagat Islands. Although the majority of 7th Fleet units returned to Ulithi at the end of October to rest after the nearly continuous operations of the summer, Bryant, three battleships, four cruisers, and 12 other destroyers remained in Surigao Strait lest the Japanese attempt another thrust through that entrance to Leyte Gulf. No surface threat materialized, but the task group endured repeated air attacks on 1 November which, according to the destroyer’s war diaries, the Japanese pilots pressed home with “fanatic determination.” Though Bryant splashed one of the enemy dive bombers, the suicide planes wreaked havoc on the destroyers, damaging five and sending Abner Read (DD-526) to the bottom. After two more weeks of uneventful patrols in Surigao Strait, she departed those dangerous waters and headed for the Admiralty Islands, tallying an enemy plane enroute.
She reached Seeadler Harbor on 21 November and promptly commenced a much-needed six days of voyage repairs and replenishment. The destroyer set sail on the 28th, fueled from Nashville at sea, and reached Leyte Gulf on 2 December. She patrolled off Leyte for two weeks before anchoring in San Pedro Bay. There, Bryant joined the first resupply echelon bound for Mindoro since that island had been invaded on the 15th. The supply convoy departed late on the 19th with Bryant, the primary fighter director for the convoy, responsible for coordinating combat air patrol (CAP). Two days into the voyage, she stood a severe test on that capability. Following an inconsequential dawn raid by two Nakajima Ki.43 “Oscar” Army fighters, the Japanese fell upon the convoy that evening with a tenacious attack involving approximately 30 planes. As the enemy pilots pressed toward the landing ships located in the center of the formation, antiaircraft fire from Bryant felled one enemy flier and assisted in the splashing of another. However, three “Oscars” broke through the screen and crashed into LST-460, LST-749, and the Liberty ship Juan de Fuca, sending both of the amphibious ships to the bottom.
The next morning, the convoy reached Mindoro, and the destroyers formed a circular screen about five miles from the beach to cover the unloading of the remaining landing ships. At 0945, as Bryant waited on station, her commanding officer sighted a Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighter at 4,000 yards. The pilot commenced a suicide run, and the destroyer maneuvered furiously to unmask her battery to starboard. Despite hits from Bryant’s 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter guns, the kamikaze seemed destined to strike her at the number 2 stack. However, the plane overshot the target, the right wing narrowly clearing a 40-millimeter mount, and splashed 50 yards away just even with the bridge. As the plane disappeared beneath the waves, it exploded, showering the agile warship with fragments of the tail assembly. These punctured her portside shell plating in numerous places and injured one of her crewmen. That evening, after the LSTs unloaded, the convoy reformed and returned to Leyte where Bryant anchored for the remainder of the year.
On 2 January, she departed Leyte Gulf in the screen of the battleships and cruisers in TG 77.2’s fire-support unit. During the approach to Luzon, the Japanese subjected the task group to a series of heavy air raids which inflicted damage on several ships. Early on the 9th, Bryant closed the beach to provide fire support for the Lingayen landings, then patrolled the area, weathering heavy seas and high winds, during the next week to parry a possible incursion by the enemy. Following a two-day visit to Leyte, the warship entered Ulithi lagoon on 26 January for three weeks of replenishment and preparation for the invasion of Iwo Jima.
On 10 February, she got underway in company with TG 52.19, conducted rehearsals near Saipan from the 12th through the 14th, and reached Iwo Jima two days later. While the island received a ferocious pounding from air and sea during the two days before the landings, Bryant provided close-in support to cover beach reconnaissance and minesweepers. On the morning of the 19th, two Marine Corps divisions landed on the eastern shore of Iwo Jima, inaugurating a bloody and hard-fought campaign for the heavily fortified base. For the balance of February and into March, Bryant patrolled her fire support area lashing out at enemy targets when needed and occasionally acting as a radar picket.
On 9 March, she set sail for the Western Carolines. En route, the destroyer made a refueling stop at Saipan, before putting in at Ulithi on the 13th for a week of voyage repairs and tender availability in preparation for the Okinawa assault. On 21 March, she departed for the Ryukyus in the antisubmarine screen of the minesweepers. The destroyer rendezvoused with a minesweeping group on the 25th and shepherded them during two days sweeping mines to the west of Okinawa. Over the five days following, she alternated between radar picket duty and gun-fire missions on Japanese efforts to improve their beach defenses.
On 1 April, Bryant started two weeks of radar picket duty. Her relatively quiet patrols contrasted with the grim experiences of destroyers on station elsewhere. On 16 April, however, her luck changed. That morning, the Japanese launched a 165-plane kamikaze mission, the third of 10 kikusui or “floating chrysanthemum” attacks launched during the Okinawa campaign. Laffey (DD-724) suffered the first and most intense attack of the day, being struck by no less than six kamikazes, four bombs, and numerous near misses. Bryant received word that Laffey required assistance and rushed to aid her. After turning back sporadic attacks, she found herself the target of a coordinated attack by six enemy planes. First, three “Zeke” fighters closed the warship in a shallow glide. Her port batteries dispatched one, and the CAP splashed another; but the third attacker, though hit repeatedly and trailing smoke, made it through and crashed into Bryant just below the bridge near the main radio room. A bomb from the kamikaze then exploded, engulfing the entire bridge in flames and doing major damage to communication, fire-control and radar equipment. Damage control teams, standing by to assist Laffey, extinguished the major fires within a couple of minutes and soon the wounded destroyer was making 23 knots. Still, despite the prompt response, the attack exacted a heavy toll. In addition to her human casualties, 34 dead and 33 wounded, the destroyer suffered material damage enough to require repairs in the United States, and so she limped back to Kerama Retto to begin temporary repairs.
On 27 April, with the patching necessary for a homeward voyage completed, she got underway for the United States. Steaming via Guam, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor, Bryant reached San Francisco on 28 May and, the next day, settled in for a yard overhaul at the United Engineering Co., Ltd., at Alameda. In addition to repair of the battle damage, the yard endeavored to improve her antiaircraft armament. However, the work stretched out over almost four months, and the war ended during the interlude. Finally, on 20 September, she stood out for a six-day “ready for sea” period which exposed a number of electrical problems that remained uncorrected by her overhaul. Declared unfit for duty by her commanding officer, the destroyer steamed southward to San Diego. Soon after her arrival on the 27th, Bryant commenced preparations for inactivation and was eventually placed in commission, in reserve, on 9 July 1946. After another 18 months in that bureaucratic limbo, she was decommissioned at last on 15 January 1947. She remained a part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet for nearly 30 years. Then, on 30 June 1968, her name was struck from the Navy list and she was sold in April 1976 to Lucia Brothers for scrapping.
Bryant earned seven battle stars for her World War II service.
C. Kevin Hurst
25 November 2005